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Withitness in the Classroom (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Oct 14, 2011

How Do I Develop X-Ray Vision?

X-ray vision is, of course, just an illusion. But you can use a few simple tricks to make this illusion real for your students. For example, you notice that a student has just started some action that will lead to misbehavior (e.g., a student takes a cell phone out of her desk). Turn your back for a moment and write something on the board or adjust papers on your desk. Then, without saying a word, quietly walk over to the child. In a soft but commanding voice say, “I’d like the cell phone, Nastasha. Please give it to me.”

Nastasha will look up, eyes wide. “How did you know?”

Your answer, “I know everything that happens in my classroom.”

This dialogue, if handled with subtle drama, will foster the illusion that you have x-ray vision. Later, when you notice that Natasha has changed her behavior for the better, react to her in a positive way. Walk to her desk and quietly say, “Thank you, Natasha. I noticed how you are really trying to listen, and I want you to know that I appreciate it.”

Stopping student misconduct using nonverbal techniques is another important way to give the illusion of x-ray vision. I was given a long-term subbing assignment in a primary classroom with an inclusion student, Justin, who had serious emotional issues. He had poor socialization skills, and his behavior was extremely disruptive.

Another child in the class, Ian, was genuinely sensitive and kind to Justin, and the two became classroom friends. I decided to ask Ian to help me handle Justin’s disruptive behavior, and together we developed a strategy. Every time Justin would act out toward another student, Ian would step in and remind him that his behavior was a problem or distract him with something else. Justin respected Ian and wanted to maintain the friendship. Ian was a natural at managing Justin’s volatile temper. It worked beautifully.

I rewarded Ian by giving him a special sign each time he did his “job.” Our eyes would meet, and I would smile and give him a subtle thumbs-up. Ian would beam with pride.

Justin never knew our little secret, and Ian’s self-esteem soared. No time was taken away from learning. No words were needed. A smile and a thumbs-up were all that were necessary.

The illusion of x-ray vision will provide you with a subtle technique for classroom management that doesn’t interrupt the flow of your lesson. Effective teachers never waste time with continual nagging, repeated warnings, or engaging in unnecessary dialogue with students. Their discipline is almost invisible.

Should I Use x-ray Vision on the Whole Class or Just with Individuals?

The x-ray vision illusion is most effective one-on-one. Other students will notice your interaction, and it will make an impression.

Whenever possible, it is best to have personal interactions. Whole-group conversations should be kept to a minimum. In general, most students are well behaved. It’s usually two or three students that are disruptive. Unfortunately, their behavior can ruin a perfectly wonderful group.

If you can show these individuals that you are aware of their behavior and will deal with it appropriately on a personal level, you will have good results. The ability to stop problems before they begin is the reason you want to foster the x-ray vision illusion.

Is There a “Look” that Can Help?

Many teachers have a special look that they use to indicate that they are displeased. If the look is effective, they can continue teaching the lesson without interruption or verbal interaction. Professional educators call this “controlling behavior using a nonverbal technique.” It’s discipline without interrupting instruction.

In a very funny book, Phillip Done describes his methods of mastering THE LOOK to a student teacher that is training in his classroom. (Done, P. 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny. Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 2005.)

Every teacher has a collection of looks. You have to or you won’t survive. . . . Let me explain. Basically there are five different teacher looks. The first one is called the Raised Eyebrow. It’s easy. Simply raise both eyebrows as high as you can. Do not speak. Keep your head perfectly still. Stare at the child for five to ten seconds.

Done goes on to describe all five looks and when to use them in a wonderfully comic style. The body language that you use, including your look, will be a wonderful tool for classroom management.

But please remember to use your “look” with a sense of humor. Children need to know that you are serious about your expectations for them, but they must feel that you have a human side to go along with the “look.” When used properly, the “look” can defuse a tense situation.

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